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Southern California-style Mexican food comes to Ann Arbor

There may be a few places to get burritos around Ann Arbor, but a whole different kind of Mexican food is coming to town as early as next week with Get Some Burritos

"The owners and investors are from Southern California, and it has a unique kind of Mexican food. They call it SoCal Mexican," says Get Some Burritos General Manager Devon Bivens. "There was some interest in the Midwest to bring SoCal Mexican here."

The first Get Some Burritos opened in Madison, Wisconsin, and Ann Arbor will be the second location. Bevins describes SoCal Mexican as including different spices than the TexMex food many Midwesterners are used to, and including steak instead of ground beef. 

"I think it's going to bring something a little bit different to Ann Arbor," Bevins says. "There are different kinds of Mexican around, but this is a different flavor profile."

The 1,200 square foot restaurant on Packard will seat about 24 people and employ a staff of about 12. Bevins hopes the near-campus area will attracts students on the go to and from classes. After about six months of renovations, Get Some Burritos is hoping to open by May 15. 

Source: Devon Bivens, Get Some Burritos
Writer: Natalie Burg

ReImagine Washtenaw moves toward "complete streets" with new study

ReImagine Washtenaw recently released its Corridor Improvement Study, which takes a comprehensive look the five miles of Washtenaw Ave. connecting the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Pittsfield and Ypsilanti Twps. Funded by the Sustainable Communities Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the research seeks to move the corridor closer to a “Complete Street” model, including bike lanes, a sidewalk network and boulevards.

“For the first time, all four local units of government have a jointly-developed, comprehensive plan for making Washtenaw Avenue a more ‘complete street,’" says Nathan Voght, Washtenaw County's ReImagine Washtenaw project manager. "ReImagine Washtenaw now has a detailed blue-print for how to transform the roadway, over time, into a street that is safer for pedestrians and bikers, and still handles vehicular travel efficiently.”
The Corridor Improvement Study revealed that the current rate of increase in traffic will soon cause intersections to fail, which Voght says will further frustrate drivers and hurt the economic viability of the commercial district. 

"The change we need to make has never been more urgent," says Voght, "and the ReImagine Washtenaw stakeholders will be continue to push ahead with necessary changes that will provide viable alternative forms of transportation, and the land use forms that will support them.”
Next up for the ReImagine Washtenaw project is to seek out funding to implement aspects of the Corridor Improvement Study that are currently achievable, as well as taking the necessary planning steps to facilitate and set the stage for those that could come to fruition in the future. 
Voght adds that none of the recommendations in the study are intended to impede or reduce vehicular capacity, requiring people to walk, bike and bus along the corridor. Instead, the increase in options will allow some people to take alternate modes of transport, putting the corridor in a better position for change. 

Source: Nathan Voght, Washtenaw County
Writer: Natalie Burg

Argus Farm Stop aims to help growers and locavores with year-round market

Ann Arbor is an undeniably great place for local produce — for part of the year. The demand for local foods, however, doesn't go away in the winter, and thanks to the rise of local hoop houses, it doesn't have to. Kathy Sample, her husband Bill Brinkerhoff and their business partner Scott Fleck are aiming to help local growers extend their growing season with Argus Farm Stop, an indoor farmers market coming to W. Liberty this year. 

"The Farmers Market is fantastic, but there is a waiting list to get in," says Sample. "And what happens when it rains and no customer show up? We thought, there's a mismatch here." 

After encountering an indoor farmers market in Ohio, Sample and Brinkerhoff met with the owners, as well as local growers and the Ann Arbor Farmers Market to see what could be done to expand the availability of local food here. When they found no one else was on the job, they put themselves on it. 

Argus Farm Stop will be located in a 1,300 square foot former gas station on W. Liberty that is now under construction. Sample hopes to open in August with new bathrooms, an espresso bar and a wide array of produce, meats and other local foods. 

"Michigan is the second most diverse state in terms of agricultural products," Sample says. "Somehow things have changed over the years. We want to build that back up."

Argus Farm Stop is operating as a  Low-Proit Limited Liability Company, an option which will help the company maintain funding as they pursue their social goals of extending the growing season and giving new opportunities to local growers. Sample also plans to include education opportunities for kids and families in their business model. A staff of approximately six employees will operate Argus Farm Stop, along with the business partners. 

Source: Kathy Sample, Argus Farm Stop
Writer: Natalie Burg

New Dexter business spices up downtown

After 14 years as a public school teacher, Denise Becker decided to spice things up with her business in downtown Dexter. The Dexter Spice House offers spices, rubs and spice blends that are unique to the area. 

Becker's interest in spices began when she her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago. Rather that relying on pizza and take-out to feed her busy family as she had before, Becker was inspired to take to the kitchen and learn how to cook foods her daughter would love. Spices became key to her success. 

"I loved it," Becker says. "I was always on the hunt for different species and rubs and blends. When I had the idea to open my own store, I just decided to go for it."

The Dexter Spice House offers a variety of unique spice rubs like honey chipotle and an adobo lime, and blends such as shawarma, spicy thai, as well as all-purpose blends named after ares of Dexter.

"My blends are ones that you just can't find at any grocery store," Becker says. "Even the nice spice shop in at Ann Arbor — they have some blends that I don't have, but I have some they don't have."

Becker is now working to develop her online presence and expand her business to the web. She currently operates the shop herself with help from her mother and a part-time employee. 

Source: Denise Becker, Dexter Spice House
Writer: Natalie Burg

Marriott's Residence Inn to add 110 hotel rooms to downtown

The much anticipated hotel coming to the corner of Ashely and Huron in downtown Ann Arbor now has a name. Developer First Martin announced last week that Residence Inn by Marriott will be the brand of hotel to occupy the planned six-story building. An extended stay model, the Resident Inn will offer studio, one- and two-bedroom suites.

"There are different types of segments in the hotel industry, so we looked at the performance of each segment we were attracted to the extended stay market," says Mike Martin, vice president of First Martin Corporation. "Of that market we thought that the Residence Inn was far and away the leader." 

The 110-room hotel is expected to open in late summer or early fall of 2015. Those rooms will significantly grow the 274 hospitality rooms that are currently available downtown. While the extended stay option is especially convenient for business travelers, Martin says visitors of all kinds will be attracted to the Residence Inn.

"There is a lot of flexibility in that type of room," he says. "You have people who are staying for just one night, but would like a little bigger room who will also enjoy it. The rooms have a desk and a couch, so they speak to wide range of travelers." 

In addition to the hotel, the proposed First Martin development will include nearly 6,000 square feet of first floor restaurant or retail space.

Source: Mike Martin, First Martin Corporation
Writer: Natalie Burg

Salads Up to bring healthy food in a hurry to Liberty

Robert Mayer may be about to embark on his first restaurant venture, but the University of Michigan graduate has plenty of experience as an Ann Arbor diner on the go. After exploring franchising options to address the lack of both quick and healthy food options downtown with his business partner, the two decided to develop their own concept. The result will be Salads Up on E. Liberty. 

"This is not a traditional self-serve ‘salad bar,'" says Mayer. "It is a fast casual concept in which the customer chooses from our many ingredient options and our awesome homemade dressings. The offerings will include what most people associate with salads but will also have some creative twists."

In addition to salads and salad-like options, Salads Up will also offer wraps, soups and frozen yogurt. Mayer is currently working with his chef to develop a unique menu that emphasizes quality as well as local ingredients. 

The 1,200 square foot space will be entirely renovated to accommodate the new restaurant, including new plumbing, electrical, venting systems and interior cosmetic work.

"The building itself is not currently equipped to be a restaurant and will require some significant work," Mayer says. "We simply could not pass up on the location."

Renovation are slated to begin this week, and Mayer plans to open Salads Up by the end of the summer, and will hire about 11 employees. He hopes their success in Ann Arbor will lead to more Salads Up locations in other cities. 

Source: Robert Mayer, Salads Up
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ypsilanti women's retailer to open second location in Ann Arbor

Nickels Arcade is about to get Mix-ed up — in a good way. Ypsilanti's popular women's clothing and accessories shop is opening a second location in the former home of Beagle Brain. 

"It was sort of a no brainer," says Leslie Leland, who owns Mix with business partner Bonnie Penet. "We discovered the space at Nickels Arcade was open and we just loved the ambiance of that location, and it's historic nature. We thought t would be an absolutely fabulous fit for our clothes."

Renovations to the 850 square foot shop are now underway. Most of the work is focused on creating Mix's unique lighting. The Ann Arbor location will be a third of the size of the original Mix, which opened about four and half years ago. The two stories will carry similar "mixes" of new and second-hand clothing and accessories, with enough variety to make visits to both stores worthwhile. 

"The similarity will be in the clothing that we carry, which is really artistically chic," Leland says. "We're in New York [at a trade show] right now and we've added some incredibly exciting clothing to our line." 

The new Mix store is slated to open in June. The store currently employs a staff of five part-time workers. Penet and Leland plan to staff the shop themselves in the beginning and add staff as needed. 

Source: Bonnie Penet and Leslie Leland, Mix
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bailiwicks Outdoors brings fly fishing accessories and outdoor gear to Dexter

Lauren Kingsley has enjoyed fly fishing for 25 years, during which time she's become an expert in the industry. While she anticipates outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will enjoy her new Dexter shop, Bailiwicks Outdoors, she especially hopes it will make sportswomen like herself feel welcome. 

"Women are the fastest growing segment in the sport, and yet when women go into the shops, they're often less than woman-friendly," Kingsley says. "We want to be known as a welcoming shop where people don't just buy stuff, but they come for help and knowledge and community — and for that to be particularly true for women."

Bailiwicks Outdoors is a joint venture between Kingsley and co-owner Dirk Fischbach. The shop features high-end fly-fishing gear, adventure wear and gifts with a Michigan outdoors theme. Dexter's proximity to the Huron River and growing downtown business community made it the perfect place for such a shop. 

"It's a goof fit for us because it's a half a block away from the main downtown," says Kingsley. "You can walk to it, but there's ample parking. It's also a house, so it's really cozy, warm and there's great natural light."

The 1,300 square foot location opened April 1. Kingsley plans to add seminars and workshops to the Bailiwicks Outdoors offerings in the near future. The shop is operated by the owners, who will soon share the workload with two part time trainees. 

Source: Lauren Kingsley, Bailiwicks Outdoors
Writer: Natalie Burg

Final Round Training Center to bring mixed martial arts & fitness classes to A2

Mixed martial arts is a fast growing sport in the U.S., and beginning next month, some of the top names in the industry will be bringing their skills to Ann Arbor with the new Final Round Training Center. Four-time world champion Muay Thai fighter Matee Jedeepitak will be among five noteworthy coaches who will offer training in Muay Thai, 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, Pilates, cardio kickboxing and CrossFit. 

"I knew Matee and knew that he had a long-time dream of having a gym in the U.S., and I had a dream of not having to drive an hour and a half for lessons with him, " says Final Round owner Chris DeRose. "We wanted something that was in Ann Arbor, and we got amazingly lucky in the people who we're drawing to the space as trainers." 

Final Round Training Center will begin classes on May 5 in a 4,200 square foot facility on Plaza Dr. in Ann Arbor. In addition to formal mixed martial arts training, DeRose says martial arts-style fitness classes will be available to anyone interested in getting into shape. 

"It's MMA fitness and training without someone punching you in the face," says DeRose. "We'll have a cardio kickboxing class and combat conditioning class that you sign up for as a package."

Final Round will also host seminars with nationally recognized names from the martial arts industry. DeRose plans to reach out to area schools and other community organizations to get involved with youth fitness programs, and will host community benefits, including a cancer awareness event in October. 
Source: Chris DeRose, Final Round Training Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Red Beauty Bar to deliver mobile makeup artists to clients

As someone who doesn't have the skills of a makeup artist herself, Christina Carter decided she was the perfect person to open a mobile beauty concierge service. After all, she would also be the service's ideal customer. 

"I'm a person that doesn't wear makeup on a regular basis, but I like having it done for a special occasion," says the University of Michigan graduate. "I noticed that when I went to a larger city, there were places to just get your makeup done. I thought, why isn't there a service like that in Ann Arbor?" 

What Carter lacks in cosmetic skills, she makes up for in entrepreneurial know-how. Her Red Beauty Bar business is set to launch in June with three makeup artists who will travel to customers' doors to get their faces in shape for any occasion, from a wedding to a night out with friends. 

"Convenience is key these days," Carter says. "People will go to the website, pick their time slot and their artist of choice to come out to their location." 

Red Beauty Bar will focus on making a basic makeup application affordable as well as convenient. Unlike other companies in the business, the service won't require or pressure customers into purchasing any cosmetics. 

It's also important, Carter says, to remind her customers that women shouldn't feel pressured to wear makeup in order to feel beautiful. The mobile cosmetics concierge is intended simply to be a fun way for customers to access makeup for occasions.

Carter hopes to eventually grow her team of makeup artists, expand into other cities, and create a brick and mortar location in the future. Prior to the launch of the website, Red Beauty Bar can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Source: Christina Carter, Red Beauty Bar 
Writer: Natalie Burg

Burger restaurant with local focus opening in Ypsilanti

A new local restaurant with a local focus will soon be serving up burgers on Cross St. in Ypsilanti. Got Burger, the idea of lifelong resident and Eastern Michigan University Graduate Haroun Mohammed will serve prime-grade Certified Angus Beef sourced from Toledo and breads from Detroit. 

"I don't think there is another place around that uses prime, Certified Angus Beef," Mohammed says. "It will also be a price that will be affordable to a majority of the community."

Got Burger will also feature wings and portobello burgers. The restaurant, now under renovation, will include room for 20 to 25 diners, as well as offering takeout and delivery services. 

"We're going to start small and grow into our next location. We're hoping this is the first of many," says Mohammed. 

In addition to local ingredients and creating local jobs — Mohammed plans to open Got Burger with up to five workers and help from a couple of relatives — exemplary customer service will be a focus at the restaurant. 

Mohammed is aiming to open Got Burger in mid-May. 

Source: Haroun Mohammed, Got Burger
Writer: Natalie Burg

Encore Hookah to bring gathering place to Ypsilanti this summer

Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor area residents will soon have a new place to relax and enjoy each others' company. This summer, Encore Hookah will open at 622 N. Hewitt.
"The location we chose is perfect because we loved being in a central location where we could accommodate to local residents as well EMU and U of M students," says Encore Hookah's Heather Sinawe.
The hookah lounge won't be the Sinawe's family's first business venture in the area. After owning an Italian restaurant in Ann Arbor, the family decided to stick with their love of the service industry by sharing one of their own interests consumers. 
"Hookah is something we enjoy smoking while relaxing and wanted to share the phenomenal experience with the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor communities including our family and friends in surrounding areas," Sinawe says.  
In addition to hookahs, Encore Hookah will provide free wifi access. For customers on the run, the business will also offer orange heads, or hookahs to-go made out of an orange, so the experience can be enjoyed at home. 
Renovations are currently underway with this summer as a target date for opening. Updates can be found on Encore Hookah's Twitter and Instagram channels. 

Source: Heather Sinawe, Encore Hookah
Writer: Natalie Burg

Former Milan bank building to house new American 1 Credit Union branch

Jackson-based American 1 Credit Union will soon be opening its thirteenth location in on W. Main St. in Milan. The credit union purchased a former bank building and is now renovating the facility to make way for an April 21 opening. 

"Milan is an amazing community," says Vice President, Marketing and Communications for
American 1 Credit Union Kristi Edgar. "American 1 is excited to become a part of it and help to enhance the already strong community bond."

The new bank branch will celebrate its opening with a Free Community Shred Day on May 3. Anyone with sensitive documents they wish to shred is welcome to join American 1 in the Milan City Hall parking lot. 

With existing locations in Brooklyn, Grass Lake and Chelsea, Milan fits right in to the American 1 Credit Union family.

"American 1 is a community-focused financial institution and we value our small-town communities in Michigan," Edgar says. 

American 1 Credit Union promotes its extended hours for customer convenience. The new Milan branch will be open until 6 pm Monday through Friday and until 3 pm on Saturdays. The branch will be staffed by five employees.

Source: Kristi Edgar, American 1 Credit Union
Writer: Natalie Burg

New location, name planned for Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts

A year of change is underway at the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts. The growing music academy is preparing to move from its 3,000 square foot S. Main St. location to share a 17,000 square foot location with Conlara School on Jewett Ave., and soon will unveil a new name as well. 
"Over time, our larger group programs have needed and wanted to grow, but the space was prohibitive," says Kasia Bielak-Hoops, executive director of the school. "Things were bumping into each other. We found this opportunity and it has flown so smoothly from the beginning."
With its primarily after-school programming, partnering with a school was an ideal choice for the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts. With Conlara's business wrapping up as the music school gets started each day, and the school facility's non-traditional design, even large ensemble practices will be easily accommodated seamlessly. 
In addition to new digs, the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts will soon have a new name. After a series of focus groups, surveys and a voting process, the organization's new identity will be revealed next week. 
"The school has been going through a transformational process over the last year," says Bielak-Hoops. "We refocused our mission. We recently went back and looked at our guiding principles. This rebranding is a part of going out to the community to say, 'This is who we are.'"
The music school will announce the new name to their community first, will post the announcement to the public via Facebook. The transition to the Conlara School location will begin over the summer and will be complete by August. The school has 250 students enrolled, and Bielak-Hoops hopes to grow that number by about 40 students each year in the new space.

Source: Kasia Bielak-Hoops, Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts
Writer: Natalie Burg

Review of 8 possible locations for new Ann Arbor Amtrak station underway

The City of Ann Arbor is looking for a place to build a new Amtrak station. Anyone who has parked on the grass in the current station's overflowing lot before hauling suitcases over the Broadway St. bridge has a pretty good idea of why. 

"There are a number of drawbacks to the current station," says Eli Cooper, the City of Ann Arbor's transportation program manager. "We've also found that the waiting room can only accommodate 60 or so passengers, when Amtrak currently gets about 100 or so per train."

The eight possible sites recently presented for public feedback follow the railroad tracks from as far north as Huron River Dr. past Bird Rd. and as far south as Geddes and Huron Pkwy. Cooper says the new station could possibly include a cafe, museum or other unique amenities in addition to features that would improve accessibility for visitors and multimodal travelers, as well as improve the quality and comfort of the station. 

"We have the ability to include discretionary items that could make the new station a place to be celebrated, as opposed to a place one might have to endure," Cooper says. "I think it's really going to create a buzz in this part of the country."

Cooper expects a site to be selected and environmental reviews to be completed by the end of 2014. A vote for the new station could take place in 2015 or 2016, with the soonest possible completion date for a new station in 2018. While total project costs are currently uncertain, Cooper anticipates $20 to $30 million or more will be invested in the station.

Source: Eli Cooper, City of Ann Arbor
Writer: Natalie Burg
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